Funding for victims of Havana syndrome included in draft Defense bill

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Funding for victims of Havana syndrome included in draft Defense bill

Funding has been secured in the Department of Defense’s draft appropriations bill to implement the recently passed HAVANA Act and assist victims of mysterious health threats called “Havana syndrome.”

On Monday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced she secured the funding to support the bill she authored. The HAVANA Act, which was passed earlier this month, looks to provide assistance to American public servants who are victims of the mysterious health attacks

“U.S. diplomats and members of the intelligence community who work both at home and abroad make many personal sacrifices to represent and protect America’s interests.  They deserve our strong support when they are harmed in the line of duty just as we care for our soldiers when they are injured on the battlefield,” Collins said in a statement, without disclosing how much has been secured. 

“As the government investigates the source of previous attacks and seeks to prevent future ones, the HAVANA Act I authored will provide critical relief to Americans who are experiencing debilitating symptoms likely caused by a directed energy weapon.  I will continue to push for the full implementation and funding of the HAVANA Act during the ongoing Appropriations process to ensure that victims receive the support they deserve.” 

According to her office, Collins also included language in the draft State Department appropriations bill urging for funding for state department personnel and their families who have been impacted by Havana Syndrome.

Both the State Department and Department of Defenses’ bills will need to be voted on in the House and Senate. 

The US Embassy in Havana, Cuba where Havana syndrome was first discovered.
The US Embassy in Havana, Cuba where Havana syndrome was first discovered.
AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File

Havana syndrome, which is often referred to by the US government as an “anomalous health incident,” is a mysterious illness linked to suspected radiation attacks that have stricken hundreds of American spies and diplomats around the world. The phenomenon is named after the city where it was first discovered, in 2016 and 2017. Earlier this month, five American families linked to the US Embassy in Colombia were struck with the illness.

Approximately 200 U.S. officials in the intelligence community and State Department have been affected by the illness with symptoms of severe headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, visual/hearing problems, vertigo and other cognitive difficulties. Some affected by the suspected attacks have suffered from other health problems years after first being afflicted. 

On Oct. 13, a group of bipartisan lawmakers urged for further action from the State Department on the attacks, accusing Secretary of State Antony Blinken of “insufficiently” handling the crisis. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been accused by lawmakers of not properly addressing Havana syndrome.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been accused by lawmakers of not properly addressing Havana syndrome.
Photo by LUISA GONZALEZ/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In the letter, Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and several other Senate Foreign Relations Committee members wrote, “It is clear that this threat continues to target U.S. diplomats and related personnel, and reflects a significant, unmitigated threat to our national security.”

The senators accused the State Department of “not treating this crisis with the requisite senior-level attention that it requires.”

“We continue to hear concerns that the Department is not sufficiently communicating with or responding to diplomats who have been injured from these attacks. We are also concerned that the Department is insufficiently engaged in interagency efforts to find the cause of these attacks, identify those responsible, and develop a plan to hold them accountable.”

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